Quick Hit Interview with Smash Wrestling

Erik Jorden

Smash Wrestling, A Canadian professional wrestling promotion that started running shows in the Toronto area in October 2012. By March 2014 they started their own On Demand service making every single one of their events available with a monthly subscription. In my opinion, 2017 has been their biggest year yet, Not only did they move their shows to the infamous Phoenix concert theatre in Toronto, but have also started airing a weekly TV Show on The Fight Network, which is available in over 30 countries.

We have seen the likes of The Young Bucks, Matt Cross, Johnny Gargano, Drew Gulak, Jack Evans, Angelico and that’s not including the home grown Canadian talent that get to shine against some of the best wrestlers in the world. Smash Wrestling is on the rise, and has been from the start. If your not watching their shows any “

Thanks for being involved in this interview guys! If you wouldn’t mind taking a moment introducing yourselves, that’d be great!

Sebastian: “My name is Sebastian Dastranj… Founder, CEO and Executive Producer of Smash Wrestling. In wrestling terms I’m basically the event promoter and one of the wrestlers. I generally cover the business end on all fronts in addition to overseeing the team. I do wrestle as well.”

James: “Hey I’m James. I’m director of content development and I do a whole bunch of other stuff!”

Alan: “I’m Alan. I’m the Producer which generally translates to controlling the overall ‘look’ and presentation of Smash Wrestling, from graphic design and website to dressing a space up for a live show and managing all our lighting. I also dabble a little in video production. I’ve edited around 300 hours of video so far so I almost got the hang of it.”

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get this interview started.

What made you want to start a wrestling promotion? Specifically in the Toronto area?

Alan: “I think for James and me our story is the same. We didn’t. But we went to a show and Sebastian asked us to help him with a table”

James: “Yeah. This is more of a Seb question”

Alan: It’s something I’d always been keen on being involved in, I trained a little years and years ago and was always rubbish but loved being a part of making a show more than being part /of/ the show.

“ I’d never considered actually following through until I got the opportunity early on with Smash.”

Sebastian: “As to what made me want to start a wrestling promotion… I ran two charity shows for my wrestling school back in the day and had a good knack for it and eventually when my wrestling school was part of a merger a lot of people from my school were disgruntled. They were not being used or felt they were not being used well. The school didn’t have a platform to showcase it’s students and alumni so I suggested that I help keep the school shows alive. “

“After doing that for a year I came to realize that I had a real passion for it but I was unable to give 100% because at the end of the day it was my training school’s brand. I kept their logo, theme, style, roster and more. I always booked the alumni and students as I was booked full time with that loyalty as well. There was stability with a fellow co-promoter grad of the school so I knew the school was stable and it was time to share my vision of what I wanted a promotion to be.”

“Why the name Smash Wrestling?”

“Back in the day I was close with a few wrestlers (still am) who were all students of Johnny Devine. They all included me in the circle and would call themselves Team Smash because of Devine’s hard hitting, “Dungeon Style” often saying “Smashy smashy!”. My worry immediately was it being confused with SMASH from Japan who was defunct but I was quickly told it’s on the other side of the world and no longer around so just go with it. So the name always had a personal tie in for me. It’s got a combat vibe to it to which is great.”

Why Smash Wrestling? Is there a meaning behind the name, or well.. a reason the name was chosen? Another question more for Sebastian…?

James: “Oh sweet Jesus lol”

Alan: “Thanks for having me TDM!”

Sebastian: “Why the name Smash Wrestling?”

“Back in the day I was close with a few wrestlers (still am) who were all students of Johnny Devine. They all included me in the circle and would call themselves Team Smash because of Devine’s hard hitting, “Dungeon Style” often saying “Smashy smashy!”. My worry immediately was it being confused with SMASH from Japan who was defunct but I was quickly told it’s on the other side of the world and no longer around so just go with it. So the name always had a personal tie in for me. It’s got a combat vibe to it to which is great.”

Which event has been the biggest for Smash in your opinion? In my opinion, it would either be Challenge Accepted 2014. Or the debut event at The Phoenix Concert Theatre entitled New Girl In Town.

Alan: “Challenge Accepted was awesome, I think I prefer New Girl In Town a little more just because it felt like we had achieved something I’d been envisioning for a while production-wise. These two will both vouch for me though when I say I don’t enjoy any of our shows live! I put a LOT of pressure on myself and the team to put on the best possible production that we can and for me that involves panicking over every little detail. Maybe more than I need to. I don’t truly relax until a show is done, edited and out in the world. And then I’m onto stressing about the next one.”

James: “You don’t relax after either, none of us do really”

“That really all depends in what you’re measuring against I think. If you’re looking at attendance – I’d say Any Given Sunday 2 was huge for us. And it was a great show. If you’re talking story importance – Challenge Accepted for sure. It bred us a massive star in Tarik – who’s a bonafide main eventer for us now. If you’re talking overall importance. Gotta go with New Girl in town. That show – being at the Phoenix …it’s incredible man. I had a band when I was younger and I had said I always wanted to be on a big stage and perform at a place like that – having the chance to help put on a wrestling show there is just as good if not better – there’s a whole community …family there sharing it.”

Sebastian: “Any Given Sunday 2 with Chris Hero vs. AJ Styles fresh both off their releases following Chris Hero vs. Lance Storm and that event being stacked with Johnny Gargano vs. Michael Elgin, Matt Cross, Kyle O’Reilly, ACH and many more was the perfect storm and was arguably one of our biggest draws. Challenge Excepted was another major attendance records that had a super stacked card. Gargano in the opener, Young Bucks in the 2nd match, Joey Ryan/Candice LeRae, Drew Gulak, Biff Busick, Alex Shelley, the historic first ever Ambulance match in Canada, and the shocking end of Matt Cross’s first ever reign as champion and his 2+ year win streak from our debut show…at the hands of a fired and returning Alex Vega. The birth of Tarik. It defined a lot of our history in one night.”

James: “See. We’re all aligned here”

“It’s like we work every day all day together or something”

Sebastian: “Haha, that’s wild!”

“I’d 100% add the Smash vs. Progress shows. Strictly because I remember the looks on the team’s face during and post show. The wrestler’s faces. We all felt like winners, hugged each other. It felt like something special.”

James: “Dude – that show was so important because it gave us some of our friends we carry to this day. And there was just this “this isn’t possible” feeling to pulling it off …and we did”

Sebastian: “You can argue there was one show per year where we really shattered a glass ceiling and did something exceptional. We intend to continue this very difficult task as the expectations always grow.”

Alan: “Is this going out before SSV?”

TDM: “Yes”

Alan: “Then that. That will be our biggest show. smash-wrestling.com/shop

Smash has gone on tour in Northern Ontario yearly. Are there any plans to your outside of Ontario?

James: “What a great and timely question!!!”

“We’re actually on our way to Moncton with a partnership with IHW – doing IHW vs Smash on Sept 8 for their 12th anniversary”

“we’ve also announced a partnership with FLQ in Montreal to help contribute and build the best independent pro wrestling experience in Montreal as well”

“Sebastian, to his credit has always preached how important it is to work with people. Help build something. Help grow the local companies there as well. It’s the right way to do it”

Sebastian: “Yeah, we will be in Moncton and Fredricton with IHW September 8 & 9, we’ll be in Montreal with FLQ in the near future as our partnership was announced online. The details of that capacity aren’t public yet. There’s other efforts in the works and to be honest doing something out of Ontario isn’t the hard part. What we pride in ourselves is doing it in the right market, at the right time, with the right setup. You can see by what we’ve done in London and are starting to do in Sarnia that we do things right or we don’t do them at all.”

IHW vs Smash! What is your perspective on IHW, as well as doing shows like this?

James: “Seb – you were just out there..”

Sebastian: “Yeah, our strength lies in working with people. We have that internally among ourselves and our team. It opens more doors to what we can do. It may at times mean taking the slower route as it’s not easy to develop partnerships, build trust and to maintain them healthy but we have done well so far and enjoy the partnerships we’ve had. “

“Even the non-Canadian ones we’ve had with CZW, Chikara, PROGRESS Wrestling and WCPW were successful and we received high praise from our counterparts. One of them called us the best people they’ve ever worked with. So we like how we operate in that sense. It’s true to who we are.”

“There’s been interest in going to the Maritimes for over two years but the last time there was a Ontario promotion there a few years ago they got burned really bad and there was a lot of hostility about them going out that way. So it was best to find the right promotion and then see if they also liked us. A few wrestlers, promoters and fans all pointed me to IHW. We had some great conversations and I was down there previously and both sides continued enjoying each other’s work and vision. So it worked out great and the wait was a blessing. Their 12 year anniversary is going to be huge and a perfect time and stage for us to showcase ourselves in the Maritimes.”

James: “Yeah. I think a company that’s been around 12 years – there’s a level of trust from the community – I’m stoked for this to go down!”

Alan:
“I like what I’ve seen of IHW, and I love that there are fresh rosters of un-tapped talent for us to work with”

When someone goes to a Smash show, what should they expect?

Alan: “Something unlike any other wrestling show they have ever been to. Our production and fans create an incredible atmosphere and our wrestlers are genuinely some of the best un-signed talent in the world. And they do it all from comedy to high-flying to technical to hardcore.”

James: “I think they should expect a little of everything. Technical. High flying. Outside the ring chaos. The best tag teams. The best talent from all over the world.
But I think the coolest thing is that people can expect a place to feel welcomed. We partner with a group called PWGRRRL GANG – which basically works like a buddy system – so if you feel uncomfortable going solo, or anxiety about these types of things – they partner you with someone to go with, a trusted buddy type and you get to come and share in the experience of pro wrestling and make a shit ton of new friends along The way …

If you com,. Let loose party out. You’ll find very quickly that you become part of something bigger than any of it – and that’s a real community.”

Sebastian: “The foundation of the very first show was to be different in the market. Lot of promotions had great rosters and shows but it was very similar. Vanessa Kraven, Matt Cross, Brent Banks being a villain for the first time anywhere was all fresh. The Overdogs was new. You’ve seen the evolution with Tarik, Rosemary, The Well Oiled Machines, bringing in the dream match guys or being the first to bring in the Drew Gulaks, Biff Busicks, Chris Heros, Rich Swanns, Kimber Lees, Heidi Lovelaces, Johnny Garganos and so forth into this market. Or bringing them in fresh capacities. Even Kevin Blackwood is a great example of that.”

James: “Man …you’re making me wanna buy a ticket”

Sebastian: “Having good matches or being a top show isn’t our goal, that’s the pre-qualification we expect of ourselves before we even get started. That’s not being cocky, fans have high expectations and therefore, so do we.”

Are there any wrestlers out there that you haven’t been able to get for a show? If not, is there anyone you would like to have, just haven’t had the chance to yet?

James: “Well ain’t this a loaded question.”

“For me it’s guys that signed contracts like RIGHT when you want to use them – Ospreay and Scurll come right to mind”

Alan: “Balor, Kenta, O’Reilly fit that too”

James: “Yeah absolutely”

“And I watch a lot of new and up and coming guys – I’m really digging Brody King out of California. Wish that dude lived in Etobicoke or some shit:

Alan:
“There are a ton of people that I’d LOVE to work with. Thankfully, one of my biggest “I’d love it if we could” talents is super close to being locked down with us for the Fall. So I’m good.”

Sebastian: “We’ve had SO MANY shoulda, coulda moments with outrageous dream wrestlers, dream matches and concepts lined up but then a contract, a visa, a delay, or something ridiculous got in the way. There very few people that were eventually let in on the “what could of happened” had their jaws drop each time. We could have a world class super card off those missed opportunities. So while I won’t specify. It was those wrestlers I’d wish we would of had.”

“A personal one is out the norm for Smash Wrestling but Roddy Piper was a childhood hero and the reason I started watching at the age of three. I always wanted to eventually bring him in during a tour to thank him and sit down for a good talk with him. It would of been special but sadly he left us too soon.”

James: “Piper would have been cool man. For sure”

“Him shooting on Tarik …oh man. Or Kevin Bennett ahaha”

This question is specifically for Alan. What’s you biggest pet peeve when it comes to editing shows?

Alan: “We are a small operation, so issues like lighting, colour balance, etc is always a challenge.”

“My biggest pet peeve is probably empty chairs facing the hard camera. Our camera team now is really good. That makes my life a lot easier”

“Also, there is never enough time in the world to edit to quality”

James: “We need to get Kramer in as a seat filler when people go to the bathroom”

Sebastian: “Yeah, nothing more upsetting or puzzling than a group of 4-5 that bought VIP tickets in row 1 or 2 and we know we they paid. It’s in our paypal…and they don’t show. Or they don’t give the tickets to someone else.”

So Penta El Zero M (Formerly know as Pentagon Jr.) Has no showed two events for Smash. How was the reaction backstage? As well as your personal reaction?

James: “Well he didn’t really “no show” per say..”

“The first time was a visa issue that their agent wasn’t diligent enough in getting sorted …like severely mishandled.  And I was bummed. But to have the ability to have Jack Evans and Angelico as replacements – I feel we ended up ahead, and really – I wasn’t so bummed anymore haha”

“Backstage – I think we’ve learned how to handle crises over the last 4 years …and handle them quite well lol”

Alan: “Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, these days I look at the positives. Angelico and Evans knew we were screwed and worked their asses off to make it up to our fans when they had no obligation to do half of what they did.

Havoc jumped at the opportunity to work with us again, and on almost no notice cut a promo and started promoting us on line to make his appearance more than just a replacement.

I can’t thank those three enough for how THEY handled the problems.”

TDM: “If I remember correctly, you botched Evans entrance music.”

James: “Alan didn’t botch. Evans botched, LOL. Came out to the wrong song”

Alan: “And no, no botch. I played Angelico out first, but Evans heard the music and assumed we were just doing the one song since they share it in AAA. He didn’t notice until he saw the screen with the name on lol”

TDM:
“That makes the moment even better now!”

James: “Yeah. Then he told me in the ring “I’m gunna go heel on em. Just go with it””

“Ill fix it”

Sebastian: “With Penta, the guys covered it. The agent royally screwed up with 48 hours to go asking for visas. He was given everything months ago in English and Spanish from lawyers, promoters, etc. We’ve had stuff like this happen too often and I can’t even get nervous for one second anymore. I accept the situation and we deal with it. 95% of the time we make up for it and the other 5% of the time I’m at peace that it is what it is and I think we have a strong enough reputation that fans know we’re not cons. We’re very honest and open with our fans about these situations so we don’t hid the problem.”

“We lost a ton of money on two flights, two visas, two down payments and a bunch more. We couldn’t switch the flights.”

“Second time, like the guys said…Penta accepted, got advertised, got the promotional material then cancelled. We love working with Havoc, and more importantly, he loves it here. We want people like that here. Our fans can recognize that.”

James: “Yeah. I don’t wanna keep giving Seb too much credit here haha – but he’s also always preached how important a good locker room is. And he’s 100000% right. I guarantee we have the best locker room.”

Sebastian: “We know the risks with bad apples and we equally acknowledge the other side of the coin too. Guys like Braxton Sutter or let’s go with our camera operator April McGregor are not only valued but you actually can’t put a price tag on them. Sutter sings our praises without asking, knows all staff members names and treats them like family. He calls this his home. April is so selfless with putting her heart and soul into Smash Wrestling and has taken the team in as family. You can’t put a price on this. It’s one thing a lot of wrestlers note to us when here for the first time. They say they don’t really see this in many places.”

Smash has a TV deal now with the Fight Network. Was this a goal from the start? Will we see more Impact stars Smash and vice versa?

Alan: “There won’t be more because of Fight Network. Like, they aren’t going to mandate that we book them. But we have a unique situation where we can not only use impact stars, we can have them on our TV. If that means we can bring in a unique talent like Bobby Lashley and put him in a match that you’ll never see in Impact, I’m all for it.”

James: “I’ll let Seb take all of this one as he really put it together”

Sebastian: “My old wrestling school/home was on FN and quickly off. I asked why and it had a lot to do with production and stuff we’ve greatly improved on. It’s been over two years of communication with them and we very quickly got to the point winning them over on 9 of 10 fronts. It just came to 1-2 production upgrades that a multi million dollar wrestling company could manage but we wouldn’t find five figures out of nowhere.

Eventually, our reputation landed us the right deals and Alan worked miracles with production. Everything with venues, production, Anthem buying FN, and so much more all fell into place at the same time.

Personally, Fight Network was always the goal because it’s combat sport oriented and Canadian owned and over the past year or two they really invested in their pro wrestling content and set a higher bar. It feels very rewarding to be welcomed into that higher standard and no less on the perfect platform. It acknowledges our hard work and our place in the pro wrestling market.”

“We have a great relationship and history with people at Fight Network and GFW/IMPACT. That’s not a public relations line. That’s very true. We’re lucky. They don’t want to tell us how to run our product. We will be benefiting from this very unique relationship and I’d like to think our platform can reciprocate back to some extent.”
Super Showdown V is this coming Sunday, August 13th at The Phoenix Concert theatre. I am expecting it to be a big show, are there any
surprises planned? And what are your expectations for the show? Whether it be from the crowd or the wrestlers themselves.

Sebastian: “If there was a surprise and we told you the surprise or that there was one…then there wouldn’t be a surprise. Hahaha.”

Alan: “James and I making it back from NYC alive and well will be the biggest surprise”

Sebastian: “Any Given Sunday and Super Showdown are our big two events of the year and we have high standards to match and exceed with each one. So our expectations are to break those barriers. Attendance, match quality, atmosphere…all of it.”

James:
“I expect the crowd to be the best crowd we’ve ever had. So much is happening at that show and we’re bringing so much intrigue to the table. From the Well Oiled Machines. To Blackwood/Tarik in a chairs match . To SSB/TDT in a tag tables match. To Haskins vs Dux for the title ..Suave vs Greed….”

James: “And of course. Myself, Alan and Scott surviving NY as he said. That will be a miracle. If not a surprise”

Sebastian:
“Yeah, no Alan and James = Ian can run production. New guy can run camera. And we will have the wrestlers film promos and content at their own discretion.”

James: “Never mind! I’ll make it. I swear”

Alan:
“Super Showdown is our Mania. It’s the big one. All our shows rock but this is the one you HAVE to be at this summer.”

Bobby Lashley will be at Super Showdown V, he has not wrestled in Toronto in over 10 years. Why Lashley? And is there a chance we could see more of him in a Smash Wrestling ring.

James:
“I think you’ve partly answered you’re own question.”

“He’s a unique talent – that presents a unique matchup that we can provide …I mean. A lot of people said “Mike Bailey vs Bobby Lashley is the match I never knew I wanted” and it’s happening here in Smash”

Sebastian: “Lashley appeals to wrestling fans who watch different platforms and like you said he hasn’t been here in 10 years so ideally most people within driving range have never seen him live or in a long time. It should be on their bucket list. It also reinforces the big event feel of Super Showdown.

More importantly, we like to not just bring in dream talents but dream matches. There’s very few cruiserweights that people would believe in giving Lashley a run for his money. Bailey is THAT guy. The reception to announcing this match was exactly what we wanted and them some. It’s something that didn’t even cross people’s mind. It’s different.”

“James nailed it with the quote. We’re appealing to people in a good way that’s fresh.”

James: “I think that’s the best part. It’s a chance to surprise people with creativity.”

“It’s a chance to surprise people with creativity”

Sebastian: “We’re not afraid of taking chances and falling on our asses. Thankfully, our turnouts and growth are indicative that our fans like what we like.”

“Alan always points out that it’s a product brought to fans by fans and it truly is that. We LOVE the matches and the people we bring in.”

TDM: “Anything to add Alan?”

Alan: “Not really – these guys nailed it”

Final question here. What are the goals for Smash in the future? Whether it be minor or a major goal. Hit me with it.

Alan: “I wanna have fun putting on the wrestling sows that *I* want to see.”

James: “Yeah – for me…man. I don’t know what those goals are …hahah so much has happened.”

“Maybe continue to build towns into bigger Smash homes …so we can run bigger and better all over the country…”

Sebastian: “These guys know some of my personal goals. Some I keep private but if anyone keeps an eye on us its clear as day that there is a demand for us in other markets and that we’re not afraid of expansion. We’ve proven that London isn’t a B town. It’s on par with Toronto. Proper expansion is very difficult for an indy promotion and that’s why most companies stick to one town. It’s gotta be done right.”

James: “I’d also like to find inner peace someday”

Alan: “I’d like to clear my Smash debt too”

James: “Oh. Yeah, add that to my list”

TDM: “Thanks for putting your credit score on the line guys.”

James: “You mean burning it”

Sebastian: “And this is the honest truth, one of the main goals is to enjoy the process. I don’t want to hate wrestling or be content with it. I want to love it. There’s a reason we’re stupid enough to take the risks we do and the hours we put in. We were/are big fans. We shouldn’t let all this pass by without taking a minute to smile and have fun. Our tours are the best. Staff and wrestlers bond and create life long memories. I’m not being sappy. It really is a big family. I want to love this game with my favorite people in the world.”

Wow, what an interview. Id like to thank the Smash team for taking part in the interview. It ended up being way more than I expected!

Links:

http://smash-wrestling.com/

@smashwrestling

http://www.ihw.ca/

https://www.facebook.com/SmashWrestling/

@wrestlingihw

https://www.facebook.com/IHWwrestling/

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